what makes a good botanical center.
good botany: a botanical center must be focused on the study of plants. It is best if that study is regional in that the local flora is the primary focus or is the launch pad for broader study, For example Denver Botanical has focused on plants that grow in high elevation xeric environments. They have a great collection of native cacti and local plants in which to build an international collection that is useful to landscapers, and patrons of the center
good connections to other botanical centers: Kew gardens is probable the best at this because of its historic relationship to the crown and the British Empire. You will see the Kew relationship all over the world as is true of the Huntington and The New York Botanical.
a qualified staff that has a true love of plants and an intimate knowledge of plants: San Antonio is a good example of this dicotemy. Paul Cox who was the interim director for a time should really be the director because of his knowledge and enthusiasim for plants. The present director has shown more of an affinity for bedding plants and planning weddings. These things sometimes are necessary to a botanical center but should never over shadow the primary importance of botany. If you look at the great centers you will always see a great botanist at the forefront. Sometimes this is hard for patrons to swallow who are more interested in throwing parties and using botanical centers as backdrops for society parties.
Patrons who are interested in botany: all good botanical centers need support form the community. My last visit to Strybing i was quite amazed at how enthusiastic the volunteers where at the plant sale. Many volunteers had intimate historical and horticultural knowledge about specific plants. In Austin the staff has a modicum off knowledge. Patrons with deep pockets helps also as long as there aren't too many strings attached. If there are strings attached it could be the ruination of the center and bog it down in years of mediocre decisions.
Knowledge of growing plants: this
is where the depth of a botanical center begins.The best example i know of
is Panayoti Kelaidis, the curator of the Denver Botanic
Gardens' Rock Alpine Garden. He travels the world collecting growing and introducing plants. His growing program of South African plants is world famous and responsible for the introduction of many different ice plants (mesembryanthemums). He has a knowledge about growing many different plants from all over the world that is quite remarkable.
More to come later . . . . .